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close this bookAgroforestry in the Pacific Islands: Systems for Sustainability (UNU, 1993, 297 pages)
close this folder7 Pacific Island urban agroforestry
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentHome-garden urban agroforestry
View the documentUrban agroforestry on undeveloped land
View the documentProblems of urban agroforestry
View the documentIntegrating agroforestry into urban planning and policy

Urban agroforestry on undeveloped land

Undeveloped or idle lands in urban and pert-urban areas are important sources of food and tree products such as timber, fence posts, fuel wood, medicines, leaves, flowers, fruits, and nuts. Such areas include road frontages, empty allotments, river banks and valleys, right-of-ways for proposed or existing paths and roads, and open land such as hillsides and swamp land.

In Port Moresby, over one-third of all households had gardens on idle land in addition to their home gardens. Kilakila villagers, as original inhabitants of the area, had particularly large tracts of undeveloped urban savanna land, and all households had, in addition to their home gardens, from one to four "bush" gardens averaging 1,135 sq m located on urban land within two miles of the urban village of Kilakila.

In Suva, about 20 per cent of all households cultivate "unused" open land, and it has been estimated that on the Suva Peninsula, approximately 5 sq km (over 70 per cent) of the "undeveloped" area (which does not include swamp or mangrove) was under this type of cultivation. The practice was most common in areas where there is a high proportion of Crown and leasehold land (as opposed to freehold land) and a high proportion of Fijian residents. Some 20 per cent of all households also planted along road frontages, despite Suva City Council regulations forbidding the practice.

In Tonga, Kiribati, and Nauru, there is little undeveloped "urban" land, although, in a number of cases, Tongans planted entire adjacent unoccupied "town allotments" ('apt kolo) in sweet potato, taro, tannia, and a mixture of trees, or in traditional mixed yam gardens (ma'ala 'up), where yams, giant taro, plantains, and taro are intercropped, usually under coconuts and other trees. There is virtually no open land in urban Kiribati, but in Nauru, some Chinese, Tuvaluan, and I-Kiribati contract labourers plant food gardens near the Nauru Phosphate Corporation's "topside" workshops, on the phosphate-rich central plateau, and in the swampy area surrounding land-locked Buada Lagoon. In Tuvaluan and I-Kiribati gardens, coconuts and banana clones were dominant.

Along road frontages, fruit-trees such as mangoes and coconuts are common, but ornamental and shade trees such as Plumeria spp., flamboyant (Delonix regia), Cassia spp., monkey-pod (Samanea saman), banyans (Ficus spp.), variegated coral tree (Erythrina variegata var. variegata), and the pride of India (Lagerstroemia speciosa), many of which are systematically planted by city councils or the government, as well as by individual households, are dominant. Living fences of fruittrees and other useful species, such as Polyscias spp., Leucaena leucocephala, Erythrina variegata, Hibiscus tiliaceus, Hibiscus rosasinensis, guava, and the recently introduced madre de cacoo (Gliricidia septum), are harvested, pruned, pollarded, or "grazed" and constitute important sources of food, fodder, firewood, medicines, and flowers, as well as being of considerable ecological importance. The balance of agroforested landscapes in urban areas includes the rare botanical garden or urban forest reserve, public parks, and institutional tree planting throughout cities, often as part of landscaping schemes.

Despite the current importance of agroforestry on undeveloped urban and pert-urban land, it is these areas that are most severely affected by wanton deforestation because of insecure tenure and undefined ownership. It is a classic example of Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons" (1968), where the urban poor and entrepreneurs clear trees in order to plant crops and to glean the land of scarce fuelwood resources. As Eckholm argues (1976, 101), the "real energy crisis" is the daily scramble by the world's poor to find the wood they need to cook their dinner. This scramble for wood and associated deforestation is clearly visible and rapidly increasing in Pacific Island urban areas (Thaman and Ba 1979).

Animal husbandry and urban agrosilvipastoralism

Small-scale animal husbandry, although playing a minor role compared with plants, is also an important activity. Surveys in Port Moresby found animal-keeping to be minimal, with 11 of 79 households keeping pigs, chickens, or ducks, and a few households keeping tethered cows or goats. There were no pigs kept in Suva. In Tonga over half of all sample households kept tethered or penned pigs, and almost two-thirds kept chickens or ducks. In most cases, poultry were penned or tethered at night and allowed to forage during the day, and pigs and other larger animals were generally tethered or penned at all times. In Kiribati and Nauru, pigs and chickens are also kept on home allotments. In Nauru, there was a large communal pig-rearing area along the beach in Denigomodu District, and, in Betio, the most heavilypopulated area of South Tarawa, there was a large communal pigrearing area with individualized pens, established by the local town council, under coconuts, breadfruit, and other trees.

In terms of agrosilvipastoralism within the wider context of urban areas, livestock depend on trees to a great extent for shade, sustenance, and tethering. Apart from kitchen waste, the main feed for pigs and chickens in most areas is coconut. In Tonga, goats and pigs are commonly fed the leaves of Leucaena leucocephala, Pisonia grandis, and Erythrina variegate, while "living edible pens" for poultry and pigs are made of these same species, plus others such as Hibiscus tiliaceus and Polyscias spp., all of which are easily pruned or pollarded to provide fodder. On open land, horses, cattle, and goats are commonly tethered to trees, which also give them shade. Small animal pens, which are commonly constructed of coconut logs, bamboo, Leucaena, or other local timber, are found occasionally.

On the detrimental side, grazing animals and pigs seem to accelerate deforestation in urban areas through the consumption or destruction of tree seedlings and saplings. Once established, however, trees and animals co-exist well, except where goats eat the bark of trees. Cattle seem to enhance the establishment and spread of guava, which although an important fruit, medicinal, and fuel-wood source - has become a noxious pasture weed in many areas.